The career path to becoming a solicitor is a lengthy one. It’s also pretty expensive, we’re not going to lie. Though the financial rewards of a vacation scheme and training contract may be impressive, it’s going to cost you a fair bit of moula to make it.
Funding from law firms
You can secure yourself a training contract before undertaking your postgraduate studies as you can apply two years’ in advance. If you manage to secure a training contract in advance, well done. You’ll also be pleased to hear that some law firms, particularly the larger City firms, are more than likely to sponsor you through your postgraduate studies.
However, you’ll still have to stump up for your living costs. The firm may provide a maintenance grant but if you’re living in London, you’re going to need a bit more wonga. For example, RPC provide their future trainees with a maintenance grant of £7,000, but if you’re paying Central London rent rates, this won’t last very long. For instance, weekly rent for a room in the Borough of Hackney is around £120, which means that within a year, £6,240 of your £7,000 would have gone into the bank account of one very wealthy landlord.
However, along with law scholarships (which you can read about here), law bursaries are also a great means to fund your studies. But what options are out there?
Undergraduate degree bursaries
Bursaries at undergraduate level are awarded based on a range of criteria. Since the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition hiked tuition fees up to £9,000 a year, many universities have been more generous in the bursaries they hand out. For example, if you started a law course at the University of East Anglia when tuition fees were still at around £3,000 a year, if you achieved a certain number of UCAS points or A-level grades, you would get a £500 excellence bursary. You then received this bursary in following years if you achieved a 2:1 or above in your studies.
Now, if you’re studying at the University of Nottingham, you can receive a bursary of up to £3,000 based on your household income. Even if your parents earn up to £42,600 between them, you are eligible for £750. Additionally, you can choose to have this amount taken off the £9,000 you’re borrowing in the form of a student loan… winner!
We’ve only highlighted one example but it’s highly likely that there are similar awards available at a range of universities.
When it comes to the GDL, LPC or BPTC, the terms scholarship, bursary and grant are used interchangeably. It’s unlikely that you’ll be given any money based on your household income, and it’s more than likely that you’ll have to apply for any money that will help you on your way to becoming a lawyer.
So what’s out there?
Bursaries for the LPC
As we mentioned before, the best form of ‘bursary’ is by securing a training contract with your chosen firm who also happen to sponsor their future trainees through their GDL and LPC. There’s also the Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) from The Law Society. This allows students to fund the LPC so long as they don’t have a family member loaning them money, don’t have savings of over £3,500, attended a non-fee paying school, are the first generation in your family to attend higher education and were eligible for free school meals whilst at school. As the DAS only covers the cost of the course, you must also be able to demonstrate that you can afford to live. This is where a loan from the bank becomes almost necessary, unless you can live with your parents or another family member.
Awards for high-achieving law students
For aspiring solicitors, the two main universities, The University of Law and BPP University, offer a range of awards. The University of Law have a full scholarship award, whereby those with a 2:2 or above who have an offer for their course can apply by taking a skills assessment test and also submitting an essay on a law related issue.
BPP also have a scholarship whereby you’ll receive £6,000 if you have achieved a 2:1 in your undergraduate studies and have a ‘clear financial need’. You’ll also need to submit an essay of around 500 words. There’s only one of these scholarships available per intake, so competition is likely to be fierce.
Bursaries for aspiring barristers
For aspiring barristers, Inns of Court offer a range of funding options. For instance, Gray’s Inn dish out over £600,000 to help students fund the BPTC. The process for applying for this funding is lengthy, however, and even involves an interview!
Postgraduate law funding isn’t easy to come by, but if you’re committed to a career in the law and apply yourself, you may find yourself rolling in the money!